Whether it’s spring, summer, fall, or winter, one of the absolute best ways to get out of your RV and into the great outdoors is by hiking. And what you wear can make or break the day. A good pair of hiking pants is comfortable, allows ease in movement, is good for changing weather conditions, and lasts several seasons.
Of course, part of comfort includes how well they fit and how stylish and even how flattering they are. For instance, can they take you from a morning hike to an afternoon lunch or from an afternoon hike to happy hour without having to run home to change into something more appropriate? Or do they fit poorly and make you feel uncomfortable in social settings, which is clearly not ideal?
In addition, you’ll want to choose pants that are loose enough to allow for a full range of motion without being so loose that they sag, requiring you to readjust them throughout the hike. You’ll also need to be able to not only hike but to stand, sit, squat, and move freely without feeling restricted.
The Best Materials for Hiking Pants
Hiking pants can be made of different materials from those that are lightweight to those that protect against harsh weather and wind. Some can even convert from pants to capris or shorts. Thickness and breathability are other factors to consider, depending on the time of year.
After all, when it comes to hiking or any outdoor activity, for that matter, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach. Factors that can change your hiking apparel include:
- Temperature range
- Terrain (e.g., mountains vs. plains vs. urban hikes)
- Distance or duration
- Weather conditions—hot and dry vs. wet or windy or even snow and ice
While you may be able to get away with a pair of comfortable jeans for a short hike in optimal weather, if you’re interested in extending your hikes or even backpacking, jeans are far from the best material. This is because denim is made from cotton fibers. Cotton absorbs moisture, which means you’ll feel hot and sweaty if the temperatures rise yet chilled if it gets cold, wet, or windy.
Instead, look at hiking pants that are made from more flexible, comfortable, sturdy materials or material combinations that are moisture-wicking, such as:
- Nylon and spandex
- Nylon and polyester
- Nylon and elastane
- Nylon, polyester, and spandex
- Polyester and spandex
Most Important Hiking Pants Features
The features to look for in hiking pants will also depend on the type of hiking you do as well as where you typically hike. For instance, if you’re hiking through the desert on warm spring or fall days or during the heat of the summer, you will want pants that are breathable and sweat-wicking and that can even convert into capris or shorts by rolling up or removing the legs via a zip.
If you prefer to hike through a forest during cooler months, you’ll want hiking pants that are thick enough to keep you warm and water-resistant to keep you dry. You may also want to ensure your hiking pants are loose enough to allow a base layer (such as Merino wool) to keep you cozy and warm.
You’ll also likely want hiking pants that repel water and stains and be comfortable for all-day wear. That way you’ll stay dry and warm, even if the weather or trail is damp. And if you get splattered with mud or debris, the pants will clean up nicely.
In addition, choose a material that is tear-resistant for hikes through forests, rocks, or briars that can catch onto your clothing. This is also important for steeper terrain that you may need to navigate by scooting on your booty.
Another worthy feature to seek out is a drawstring waist that allows you to adjust as movement can cause elastic bands to stretch. This is especially true if you’ll be wearing a pack, which can place friction on your waistband, causing it to loosen.
Other features that can help make your hiking pants more comfortable include articulated knees, which add greater flexibility, especially for hiking pants that have less stretch. Crotch gussets can also be helpful as they help alleviate pressure or discomfort from the seams in the nether regions or cause the pants to rub uncomfortably between the thighs.
Best Budget-Friendly Options for Hiking Pants
There are many different types of hiking pants, which can range wildly in price—from $30 dollars to several hundred dollars. Some favorites include Arc’teryx Gamma ($190 at REI), Fjallraven ($175 at REI), Patagonia Quandary ($90 at Patagonia.com), and Kuhl ($99+ at Kuhl.com), but there are also a number of more budget-friendly hiking pants that still offer comfort, mobility, and durability, including:
- Outdoor Research Ferrosi Pants ($75 on Amazon)
- Marmot PreCip Eco Pant for wet weather ($56 at Backcountry.com)
- Royal Robbins Alpine Road Pant ($64 at Amazon)
- Mountain Hardwear AP Pant ($47+ at Amazon)
- Columbia Silver Ridge ($45 at Columbia.com)
- prAna Stretch Zion Pant ($43+ at Backcountry.com)
- Baleaf Hiking Pants ($35 on Amazon)
Choosing the Right Hiking Pants for You
Ask any hiker about their top gear, and a good pair of hiking pants are probably near the top. Sure, if you’re going on only shorter hikes without much elevation gain or loss, you may be able to get away with wearing a comfy pair of jeans, leggings, basketball or running shorts, or joggers, but for a longer haul, hiking pants are worth the cost as they:
- Move comfortably because they’re lightweight, flexible, and breathable
- Dry quickly from both sweat and weather
- Are lightweight, so they’re comfortable even when the temperatures soar or when worn as a layer
- Are versatile, especially those that have removable legs or that can be rolled up
- Are stylish enough to run around town
- Typically provide pockets, so you can keep your phone, wallet, keys, lip balm, etc. secure as you hike
- Stay quiet as you walk, so you aren’t distracted by rustling pant legs with every step
- Are durable so you can hike miles while protecting your skin from the sun, changing weather, insects, and tough terrain.